Friday, 10 July 2015

Mud, mud, glorious mud at Stowe Landscape Gardens

On 6th May 5 intrepid ladies in various shades of wellingtons ventured into the Elysian Fields in Stowe Landscape Gardens. Armed with trowels and under the expert and tender guidance of Gary Marshall, National Trust archaeologist we helped to investigate a potential pool where the linear lake feeds the Octagon Lake. The Trust had been trying to clear away some of the steep side banks with a digger and had uncovered masonry blocks. As the site was steep, wet and small, Gary needed only a small group to hand dig and clear the area to find out if the masonry was the edge of small pool.

From the top lake the water came down over some cement blocks into a culvert, then emerged as a small but steady trickle through the arch shown in the picture. The whole of the wall surrounding the arch was covered in ivy and had an interesting pipe going across the wall - feeding what? or taking water where?

The interventions and alterations from its original watercourse over the years included a path between the two lakes - over the arch. So it looked like the area was seriously altered from the original garden plan.


The best masonry uncovered on the right hand side

So what did we find? As Pauline and Jenny bravely pulled away all the ivy from the wall they revealed several courses of rough but deliberately placed stone blocks (see photo). We hoped that there would be a clear stone lined channel leading from the arch but although some masonry looked as though it lined a channel, it wasn't quite clear enough on both sides to establish the route of the water despite the attempts of Glynis, Jean S. and myself to convince ourselves and Gary.

Gary had hoped that there might be a settling pool as the masonry line seemed to widen out, but again there was no clear line to follow.

Did we find anything? Well yes. A test tube. Well it is a school! But still unusual. And not much else.

However, thanks to the lovely staff at Stowe we did have hot bacon sandwiches and drinks whizzed down to us for lunch.

But we did manage to find a little more information to add to Stowe's illustrious history as one of England's finest gardens. And none of us fell in the pond!

Thank you, Gary.

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